I woke up all last week in Tennessee, and somewhere along the way I woke up to the fact that I am part of a new family. That’s my miracle this week, realizing that I am a Kramer, in addition to being a McVadon which I’ve known all my life. What I didn’t know was what it is like, what it takes, and what it ultimately means to become part of a family.

Part of it, of course, is the loss of my family’s longtime home base in northern Virginia.

No parents, no grandparents’ house to spend Christmases.

Now I finally can start to get what it has been like for Melinda for fifteen years. She got then, what I am only starting to get: that the family is bigger than you, and it’s not about you, it’s about the family, and when you get that, the family gets YOU.

I was warned, the Kramer family is big, they are intense, watch out! And so for a long time I was concerned with distinguishing myself, getting known in this big new group.

But that’s folly, as it turns out. The family just keeps getting bigger, and everyone cares mostly about the babies or the very oldest people who won’t be with us long. So I gave up trying to make people remember anything about the McVadons or the Navy or even about TV news. I just showed up, with Melinda, at literally EVERYTHING, starting in 1994, when I stumbled into the first Kramer Family reunion I went to in Tapoco, North Carolina, and have not missed one since.

I went to the next one in Pennsylvania in 1997. We proudly brought toddler Meredith to the 2000 reunion in Maryville, and flew out to San Diego in 2003. Then 2006 and 2009 in Tennessee, 2012 on the Outer Banks, 2015 at the Grand Canyon, then 2018 back East and last year’s Covid-delayed gathering in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. That’s ten!

My family of origin didn’t even have reunions, much less a string of ten straight, all over the country, all well-attended. I counted up the weddings, and stopped when I hit double-figures – all in the Kramer family, not counting my Baton Rouge jaunts.

But it wasn’t totalling up events that made me realize the miracle of becoming a Kramer. It was when younger cousins kept coming up to ME to ask questions… who is that? When did they leave Tennessee? Am I his second cousin? (No, first cousin once removed.) I was bemused, thinking I know your family better than you do!

Then it hit me. That’s because it’s MY family too. I know our family better than you. Heck, let’s hope so, after 30 years of reunions and a dozen weddings and funerals from Margaret’s to Lynne’s. I’ve heard the stories about Grandaddy Jack, and the ones about Aunt Sara from Texas, God rest their souls. I miss them. After all, they’re my family.